The Red River flows out of the mountains of Appalachia into the Kentucky River south of Trapp, Kentucky, making a meeting place for Clark, Madison and Estill counties. Forty miles upstream the river flows between wilderness rock formations; it is known as the Red River Gorge; close by is Natural Bridge State Park. The Gorge is a wonderful area for camping, hiking, climbing and canoeing.
To reach the Gorge, take I-64 East, veer off on the Mountain Parkway, and take exit #33 at Slade, Kentucky. Turn west for a few miles on state road 15 and turn north on route 77. It is five miles to the Gorge; but before you have gone very far you may see a white frame building sitting on your right, with trees on one side and a house on the other.
My memory tells me it is a rectangular building without a steeple, and the only way we have of knowing it is a gathering place for Christian worship is the simple sign that faces the road. "End Time Tabernacle -- Visitors Welcome." Without pretense, and certainly without social and political power, its very title announces a deep conviction: the End of the world is certain -- and very soon.
A Fascination with the End of the World
The mountain church at Slade, Kentucky is a fine expression of the hope we hold as Christians, the blessed hope, as Paul the Apostle called it. But it's also a fitting symbol of our fascination with the End of time. Many Christians are intently interested in what theologians call eschatology; that is Latin for, "the study of last things". We are like those first disciples of Jesus who asked the Lord, "Will you at this time bring the kingdom to Israel?"
The current interest actually began more than one hundred years ago. Preachers and teachers in England and America began a serious study of prophesy. Many developed a conviction about the restoration of the Jewish people and the return of Jesus. A few years later, Theodore Herzl launched a move to resettle Palestine with Jewish people. It became known as Zionism.
In 1909 Oxford Press published the first edition of the Scofield Reference Bible. This book introduced into the Christian populace two novel ideas which have become mainstream in evangelical life: the idea, first, of the Church Age which would end, second, with the Church snatched away into heaven in an event called the Rapture.
In 1948, Jewish settlers in Palestine established the state of Israel. Some thought this momentous act marked the beginning of the End. Many orthodox Jews were convinced the redemption of the world was imminent. Some launched a movement to remove the Dome of the Rock so they could build the Third Temple. They called the Dome, 'the abomination of desolations.'
In 1977, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth. Today 34 million copies are in print in 54 languages. He predicted the return of Jesus during the decade of the 80's. I have in my library a small book by another man: 88 Reasons Why Jesus May Return in 1988.
In 1995, the first Left Behind book appeared, launching the most successful book series in the history of publishing. It started out to be a single book; then a trilogy; now we are up to 14 books. The authors say the end is near, but I wonder!